My Coming to Faith
by Anthony Zaccariotto
I come from an Italian Catholic background, was baptised at birth by my parents and received Holy Communion when I was 8 or 9 years old. It may have been as a means of pleasing my grandparents and keeping tradition but, after this, I never learnt about Christ or the Christian faith and religion seemed to be disregarded after that.
I was very spoilt growing up, my father would give me anything I wanted and more. Throughout high school and in my early twenties I was lusting, chasing girls, going to parties, drinking, smoking, spending, travelling, and was never really too concerned with study. I have been working ever since I finished high school and the majority of it has been in my father’s businesses.
Often in my life I felt very lonely, empty and like no one understood me. I was never satisfied no matter what I did whether it was partying, sex, drugs, drinking, smoking, travelling or making money. My heart was yearning for something that nothing in this world was able to satisfy. There was always this gap inside me that never seemed to be filled. No matter who I talked to in my life, I didn’t get an answer that helped me. Not from my family, friends or even my girlfriend at the time. This began my search for meaning and truth.
I started my search in literature; self-help books, philosophy, biographies etc. They were very interesting and did help quite a bit but they were still not filling the gap. A lot of them talked of success, ambition, contentment, gratitude and staying positive but they were not answering my questions. I can understand when people want to set goals, achieve success or want a better life for themselves and their families, but I did not really know what to do with them as I had been spoilt growing up and already knew that wealth and success was not enough. I have met many rich, wealthy and successful people and to my amazement it almost seemed like they were the ones who were struggling the most inside. I hope I don’t sound arrogant when I write this I am just opening up on how I felt.
Very shortly after my search I ran into a young man who I hadn’t seen since I was 14 years old. His name is Tony, and he also goes St Marks Church. I saw him at a cafe one day right next to the office where I work. Tony and I were good friends when we were in high school and would hang out quite a bit. However, this boy was probably the wildest, craziest, most disruptive student in the school. He would be cursing at teachers, vandalising as well as, receiving detentions and suspensions. It wasn’t long after commencing year 8 that he was told to leave the school. He gives me full permission to tell this story by the way, so I am not going behind his back here. We both still joke about it with each other.
Anyway, I see him at this cafe and our faces just light up, I sat with him and we had a big conversation. I noticed however something was very different about him. He was the exact opposite of what I remembered. I understand people mature in life as the years go by, but this was something way out of the ordinary. He told me about his story after he left high school; how he got into a bit of trouble, how struggled through pain and how he needed help and eventually found his faith in Christ.
Now this really intrigued me as it was not like anything I had ever encountered before.
Not long after this, I began to open up about my story to him. About how I was going through a tough time in my life trying to find answers, looking for meaning and purpose and trying to find what the universe wanted from me.
Tony said to me with great confidence and a cheeky little smile that what I needed was a Saviour and that he had one for me. He made me laugh and anyone who knows him knows how hilarious this man can be. I dismissed everything he said because it just sounded silly and religion was a topic I was not interested in.
After this run into each other we exchanged numbers and continued to meet up. It turns out he worked only a few doors down from my office. I kept opening up to him about I felt and how I was just sick of the life I was living. Even though to many people out there I had the ideal life, to me it didn’t feel that way.
Tony continued on how he understood what I was going through. He explained that I needed to pray and I needed to have faith in God but it still seemed silly to me. I’ll give you a direct quote from Tony: ‘Mate scrap all those books that you are reading, there is only one book you should be reading and that’s the Bible’. Anyone who knows Tony will know exactly how he would have said that. One day down the track he was even kind enough to buy me a Bible and other books about The Church such as ‘The Fear of God’, ‘Return to God’, ‘Love the summit of virtues’ – all books written by Pope Shenouda.
The whole thing still seemed ridiculous to me but I told him I would at least give it a shot, after all he was kind enough to get me these books. I started with Genesis and straight away I knew I was not interested, especially with what the world had programmed into my mind about ‘reality’, ‘evolution’, ‘science burying God’ and the whole lot. So I put it down and dismissed the whole thing. By the way, I need to add in a quote here from C.S. Lewis “a young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading”.
He told me to come along with him to church and just give it a try. It was the night we had Gary Raymond preaching along with some of the fathers in the church. Probably some of the greatest sermons I have ever heard and they touched me in a very profound way. Soon I did some more research on the church, its history, its beliefs, Christianity and of course science. I was hungry for answers and the truth. I eventually found it. I guess it’s true when they say that when the student is ready the teacher will appear. A little J.P. Morlan quote to everyone who reads this -‘God maintains a delicate balance between keeping his existence sufficiently evident so people will know He’s there and yet hiding His presence enough so that people who want to choose to ignore Him can do it. This way, their choice of destiny is really free’.
I could go on and on here but I am trying to summarise as briefly as I can.
I had a meeting shortly after with Father Mark and we had a very nice talk. He was even kind enough to welcome me into the Coptic Church which was a real honour. This church had some of the most wonderful, kind and loving people I had ever met, mong many other wonderful attributes. The rest is history from there.
My closing statement to all you readers is best summarised by Ravi Zaccharias and Bill Craige: I have travelled the world, I have searched high and low, and I have found nothing that satisfies my mind, my heart and the deepest longing of my soul like Jesus does. If you are sincerely seeking God I promise he will make his existence evident for you. God bless you all and I can’t wait for you the reader to come and join me and transform the way I did.